UNISONActive is an unofficial blog produced by UNISON activists for UNISON activists. Bringing news, briefings and events from a progressive left perspective.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Union character and organising beyond the workplace

On a day when Unite released their handy all in one policy guide which sensibly says that the union is committed to the organising of workers and rebuilding of shop floor trade unionism, its General Secretary announced a cut price 50p a week deal for students and the unemployed calling for 'those on the margins to organise, to come together to challenge the decisions made by the elite in the interests of the few'

The class and social solidarity underpinning the initiative reflected in the fifteen reasons to join is laudible, especially when millions languish in unemployment and all the misery it entails http://www.unitetheunion.org/pdf/006-foldout-v2.pdf

But when fewer than 15% of private sector workers are unionised and organising at the workplace is a union's primary purpose many will question whether Unite has got its priorities right?

Unions already struggle with organising workers in irregular employment and in the voluntary sector so there can be no doubt that sustaining organisational structures for disparate unemployed workers and students will be very difficult.

What will be the implications for the character of unions when there is no collective industrial focus or purpose on workplace issues such as pay, health and safety and skills? As things stand over one quarter of the 1.5m members of Unite are not full (working) members.

And will substituting one specific general union for a political organisation of unemployed and community activists actually bring value to the whole movement?

No doubt all other unions, including UNISON will be watching this experiment with interest, but for now remain committed to organising workers in employment.